• U.S.

Business: Entrepreneur of God

3 minute read

Before the communion rail in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia’s grimy Kensington industrial district last week knelt 80 out-of-work hosiery workers. They joined curly-haired Rector David Carl Colony in a prayer of thanksgiving. They listened to his sermon: “Remember . . . you have not arrived by yourselves but with the help of God.”

Next day, to the abandoned two-story plant of Fashionmaid Hosiery Co. at Vankirk and Keystone Streets went the 80 to clean up, overhaul the machines, put up a new sign (Colonymaid Hosiery Corp.) and get ready for production. It was their plant. They had put up $300 each by drawing on savings, getting loans on their life insurance and cars. They had high hopes and some reason for them.

Colonymaid is the fifth textile plant that Rector Colony has established in the past eight months.* It all started last year when to Rector Colony’s office under the rumbling Frankford Street elevated went a delegation of 55 unemployed hosiery workers to ask him for jobs. Lithuanian-born David Colony—who had soldiered at 16 in Allenby’s hell-for-leather army in Palestine, who had muttered against church pomposity and mustiness, who had been unhappy as curate of Philadelphia’s swank Church of the Good Shepherd—was ready to deal with the problems of St. Luke’s unemployed parishioners. He told them to go into business for themselves. That first group raised $11,000 and within a few months more Rector Colony, their president, had wangled a $15,000 RFC loan. A small vacant mill was bought, 13 ancient knitting machines were put in shape and Colony Hosiery went into production. At first, without working capital to buy silk, Colony Hosiery took orders only on commission. After eight months in business it now buys its own silk, has advance orders for two years (mostly gathered by President Colony in frequent trips to Manhattan), is working two shifts a day and is paying back its RFC loan at $250 a month. Its weekly payroll is $1,500 and its wages range from $20 a week (for watchmen) to $40 (for skilled workers).

In the past six months David Colony has also organized St. Luke’s Towel Co. (80 stockholder-employes), whose entire output is taken by a New York jobber; Hulby Hosiery Corp. (33 employe-owners) and Colony-Sharp Carpet Co. (75 workers), in whose organization the Rev. William Sharp of nearby St. Paul’s joined.

Of all the Colony coops, now employing some 400 men, David Colony is president or vice president, visits each one daily when he is not out selling their product. He is unpopular with his bishop, dignified, 77-year-old Francis Marion Taitt, but says Rector Colony: “There is not a single member of my parish who does not have a job. That is more than a lot of my Main Line friends can say.”

*For news of another priest in industry, see p. 12.

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